The Power of Generosity:
To Promote Transformation
Notes by Hon. David Kilgour, M.P.
Sharing Way Sunday, First Baptist Church
November 13th, 2005
and fellow believers in Christ,
It is an
honour to be here today as we acknowledge the work of “The Sharing Way” that is
doing much to contribute to relief and development work overseas.
I’d like to
outline some ways in which the practice of generosity can transform our own
lives, as well as make a difference in a broken world. I owe a debt of gratitude
here to Dave Toycen, President of World Vision Canada and his book, The Power
How do we
define generosity? Webster defines it as “the trait of being willing to give of
your money or time.” It is true that when we think about generosity our minds
often jump to monetary gifts. In today’s world, money is often the most concrete
way that we can effectively express generosity; each one of you no doubt seeks
to practice good stewardship of what God has blessed you with. This should not
depend, however, on the amount of money a person makes. Consider a Baptist
couple I knew who were so generous that Revenue Canada once audited them because
they were donating so much of their declared income.
however, has a much deeper impact than just on a financial level. It has the
power to influence and promote peace and justice.
Generosity and Justice
a moment the crimes against humanity continuing in Darfur. We have witnessed the
appalling killing of the people of ‘African’ Darfurians over more than two years
by ‘Arab’ Janjaweed militias, who are clearly directed by the Sudanese
government. Probably over 400,000 villagers have already died from unnatural
causes. It has aptly been termed “Rwanda in slow motion.” We cannot just stand
by and do nothing, but merely sending money does not seem enough.
address on a political level the situation that allows such acts to happen and
actively pursue effective solutions. The government of Sudan must be pressured
much harder by other countries to end its torrents of violence. We as Canadians
should be lobbying our own government to act. How come 52 governments, including
Canada’s, could send more than 60,000 peacemakers to stop the killing and raping
in Bosnia, but not a single one to Darfur to date? Our generosity in this sense
can be applied to standing up to injustice.
see generosity as an easy way out of addressing wider challenges of injustice in
society. Toycen, refutes this, saying that generosity and justice need to work
together to address injustices across the world. He says “Generosity without
justice is a band-aid that offers one-time encouragement. Justice without
generosity is a long-term solution that fails to heal the hearts of those who
can make a difference.” Our world needs more generosity and more justice.
Generosity can often be seen as an important step on the road to justice. We
should be advocating for both.
Generosity and Peace
can promote peace. President Jimmy Carter said, “How can we ever expect to find
peace if we keep killing each other’s children?” Violence and revenge have often
been the toxins that destroy peace in societies such as Northern Ireland,
Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo, Sudan, the Middle East, Congo and many more. The
question often becomes who will take the first step towards reconciliation and
Mandela is someone whose generosity of spirit in taking the first steps towards
peace paved the way for reconciliation in South Africa. Mandela thereby set a
path of peaceful negotiations in place that led to freedom for the black
majority in his country. Mandela: “I always knew that deep down in every human
heart, there is mercy and generosity.” How different our world would be if more
people practiced this same generosity in promoting peace.
the story of Deborah, a mother who survived the genocide in Rwanda, although her
husband was killed. One evening soldiers came to the door and asked for
Innocent, her 19 year old son. They explained they wanted to ask him some
questions. Minutes later, however, Deborah heard the gunshots that took her
son’s life. Deborah was a woman of faith and continued to practice prayer and
meditation despite her questioning of how God could allow such a tragedy.
A few weeks
later, three soldiers came to Deborah’s door. Her first thought was that they
had come back to kill her. Then she recognized one soldier from the previous
visit who took her aside. Expecting to be shot, Deborah was stunned when the
soldier asked her to pray for him! They got down on their knees and she began to
pray. Afterwards the soldier introduced himself as Charles. Charles admitted he
had been the one to kill her son because Innocent had told the authorities of a
theft he had been involved in. As time passed, he had felt increasing guilt and
regret and asked Deborah, “Would you forgive me? If not, take me to court and I
am prepared to be killed for my crime.” Stunned, Deborah considered her
response, seeing that it could be part of Rwanda’s step to healing. Finally she
told Charles she was prepared to forgive him. Deborah describes how a great
burden was lifted from them both, even though it was very difficult.
In the months
and years that followed Deborah’s powerful story of generosity was shared and
contributed to her wider community in Ruhengiri, Rwanada. She comments on the
difference in her town that “it is now a different place. The killings have
stopped, the Interhamwe are gone and peace has returned to my beautiful corner
of Rwanda.” Deborah’s generosity through forgiveness contributed to bringing
about this peace.
Applying Generosity in our own Lives
unique aspect of practicing generosity is its power to transform our own lives,
even as we seek to impact the lives of others. Proverbs 11:24 from the Message
says “The world of the generous gets larger and larger; the world of the stingy
gets smaller and smaller.” Generosity often requires us to get out of our
comfort zone, take risks and through this we can experience great growth.
consider the generosity of Canadians from all faiths and cultures in responding
to the Tsunami crisis at the beginning of this year. In the course of a few days
the flood waters killed over 200,000 people and affected the lives of millions
more. However Canadians organized fund raisers, traveled to affected areas to
help rebuild, donated clothing and resources; one Buddhist temple in British
Columbia even sold their temple in order to donate more money to Tsunami
victims. This was extended to other parts of the world like India where
an impoverished village in Meghalaya, India decided to
donate money meant for their own development to the town of Kyndiah that was
affected by the Tsunami.
It would seem
that such times of crises do compel these rare and generous acts that bring out
the best in us. However there is much more that we could and should be doing to
respond to the injustices and inequities around us. As Christians, we should be
leading the way in responding to God’s call to “seek justice, encourage the
oppressed, defend the cause of the fatherless and plead the case of the widow.”
Permit me to
close with a few practical ways that we can practice generous lives in addition
generous habits: Look for chances to be an encourager, take time to thank
and encourage someone else for what they are doing. Business writer Michael
Zigarelli describes a practice where he would place 5 coins in his pocket at
the beginning of the day; each time he gave someone a compliment or praised
them he moved one coin over to his other pocket, attempting to have all the
coins transferred by the end of the day.
Share what you have:
Look for opportunities to share your time, expertise, and finances for the
benefit of others. Determine what causes interest you and invest your time
volunteering or supporting these financially.
Advocate for justice:
Be informed about injustices that are happening around the world or in your
own communities. Actively pursue solutions to these by writing to your MP’s
and letting them know you expect the government to deal justly and fairly with
those in need.
through promoting peace: Offering forgiveness and grace to others can be a
powerfully generous step that will lead to reconciliation in your own life,
and in your relationships with others.
comments, “Generous acts have the unique ability to lift us to a higher level
where we are more human, more the person we really want to be.”
Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we
you to practice generosity in your financial gifts, as well as in all aspects of
your life to promote peace and justice as we work towards creating a better